It’s common knowledge that Lamborghini invented the word ‘supercar’ back when the Miura launched in the sixties, but did you know that the term ‘super-SUV’ — a title that’s drawn some criticism over the years — can also be traced back to the Italian manufacturer’s history? Arguably, Lamborghini married the two terms when they plonked the Countach’s flagship V12 into the ‘Rambo Lambo’ LM002 — an outlandish concept that was part military contract, part luxury road-presence king, and eventually, part collectors’ item, with just 328 examples in existence.
The Urus, however, isn’t nearly this rare. As Lamborghini India Head Sharad Agarwal reminds us, the global sales tally for last year sat at a robust 5,367, helping shatter rising sales records for the company. This was further compounded with a jaw-dropping 18-month waiting period for Indians willing to fork over Rs 4.22 crore for the latest Performante variant. Why indeed, would India’s elite rush to Lamborghini dealerships, fistfuls of cash in tow? Key fob in hand, I was about to find out.
Going Up The Hill
With memories of the original fresh in mind, I was excited to see if the Performante looked as good as it sounded on the spec sheet, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Parked in the driveway of a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru, sat a convoy of three Urus Performantes, led by a Huracán. I decided to go for the first one — a stunning example in Lambo’s dramatic ‘Rosso Mars’ shade of red.
The confidence the Performante inspires is pretty evident on Nandi Hills’ several tight, blind corners and hairpin bends, bringing up this question — how will a 2150 kg vehicle, even with a 47 kg diet, bend itself to my will? But it does with slavish obedience and on a narrow, treacherous uphill climb, no less. As we set off chasing the Huracan through the cliffside twisties of Nandi Hills, I took a moment to mute the impressive Bowers & Wilkins stereo, rolled the windows down and flicked the Top-Gear-esque drive mode switch from Strada (Street) to Sport, and finally Corsa (Race). It was here that the V8 shed every bit of its everyday-driving dalliance, as the standard Akrapovič titanium exhaust roared, popped and banged, matching even the Huracán’s screaming V10 up ahead of me.
While we’ve addressed the track width and ride height changes, I believe that Lamborghini’s clever decision to tweak established SUV norms is the key to the car’s sheer drivability. Put simply, the super-SUV dials everything up to eleven with a ride-height reduction of 22 mm, a 0.6-inch track width increase, plenty of carbon fibre and aero bits on the front and rear ends, plus low-profile, lightweight 23-inch alloys and massive 17.3/14.6 ceramic brakes.
The all-wheel drive differential setup has been tweaked for more aggressive driving conditions while Lamborghini’s near-imperceptible active anti-roll system keeps the Performante planted through corners. Crucially, they’ve also ditched the base model’s cushy air suspension for new steel coilovers, which offer greater top-end performance and durability without affecting ride quality. The result is a much sharper take on the platform that justifies the ‘super’ tag, while still offering all the creature comforts you’d expect from its slower all-German cousins.
No Road? No Problem
After teasing us with the super-SUV’s tantalising updates and delightful on-road experience, Lamborghini hypes us up for the next segment. I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t very sure of what to expect from the addition of a ‘Rally’ mode to the platform, but race car driver and official driving instructor Ishaan Dodhiwala assures me that our motley crew of journalists and cameramen were in for something special.
Even further away from the fringes of Bengaluru, lies the foundations of a new FIA Grade 2 racetrack. On paper, the track heralds India’s growing presence as a key motorsports destination, although it remains to be completed, and during our visit, is a flat-track circuit with plenty of twists, turns, and elevation changes. Seizing the opportunity to showcase the Urus Performante’s abilities before the circuit’s asphalt is actually laid down, Lamborghini India managed to pull the right strings, offering us a couple of laps and the tantalising promise of barrelling sideways through Karnataka’s familiar red dirt.
Now, flooring a car with 675 PS of power and a 0-100 time of 3.3 seconds is exciting enough. Add in the factor of the two-ton-plus kerb weight and a dirt track, and the effect leaves a lasting impression. The first corner — a sharp right bend — didn’t give me much time to process this, though. While my senses told me to hit the brakes and sail through the racing line, my instructor suggested otherwise, encouraging me to pull off the gas, veer into the corner, and floor it yet again.
I hesitantly comply, and within moments, execute a slide that veers effortlessly through the corner, holding out for a full five seconds before straightening out. Across the first lap, I try this technique time and time again — expecting each corner to send me flying off track, or simply spin out and end my session in embarrassment. The Performante, however, handles every single turn with stunning, almost lazy adroitness, waking up my inner Colin McRae and transforming my rather constipated expression during the first corner into a wicked grin as I zoom around in delight by the end of lap one. This was definitely the most impressive bit about the Performante for me — with the help of its powerful electronics suite, it inspires a jaw-dropping amount of driving confidence in every situation.
“Bringing the ability to drift, chuck around this very large and expensive car and still manage to get away with it… that’s the essence of where the manufacturer is coming from,” explains Dodhiwala, who draws a contrast between the skill ceilings associated with ‘80s Group B rally cars (another Audi reference here) and the Performante’s addictive ease-of-use. “It may sound gimmicky, but combining tech and the mechanical side of things is a good way forward. This really is an absolute all-rounder — a car that can be driven daily in comfort and luxury, flung around the hills on a weekend, driven to and from a track event… you name it.”
In essence, Lamborghini have really slammed the door shut on the late-2010s brigade of super-SUV haters — even Ferrari, who’s late ex-CEO Sergio Marchionne famously dismissed making SUVs back in 2017, are now welcoming global reviews of the Purosangue (which they doggedly insist isn’t really an SUV). Far earlier to the party than their competition, however, Lamborghini have truly designed what might be the most versatile performance vehicle of its age. I wanted to hate it too, but I’ll admit, from daily driving to dirt track shenanigans, the Urus Performante is an emotive engineering masterpiece, offering a grown-up version of the classic Sant’Agata Bolognese formula that’s civilised, carnal and competitive — all in one package.
Images: Lamborghini India